So what has the original Washington ever done for America?

American Independence Day will be marked in star spangled fashion by the ancestral home of its founding father.

By Gavin Ledwith
Wednesday, 03 July, 2019, 16:41
President Jimmy Carter with the miners lamp presented to him by Ian McAree, the youngest member of Washington Welfare Band in May 1977.

Washington, Tyne and Wear – where first United States president George Washington’s forebears lived – will raise the Stars and Stripes flag in an annual ceremony at Washington Old Hall at 11am on July 4.

Washington’s great grandfather, John Washington, had emigrated to the then colony in 1656 with the Washington family tracing its roots back in our area as far as the 1180s when William of Wessington – one of more than 20 varied spellings of Washington – moved north from Stockton.

Signs in Washington promoting the area's link with America.

Yet it is not just the revolutionary pioneer and the name of America’s capital city that our Washington has bestowed upon its trans-Atlantic traditional ally.

Ged Parker, chairman of Washington History Society, said: “As well as George Washington’s family, Hilary Clinton’s direct ancestors used to live in Blackfell and worship at Holy Trinity Church.

“So we’ve very nearly given them two presidents.

“Then you have to remember that Washington Chemical Works was the first place in the world to manufacture aluminium. So we have given them more than just the Washingtons.”

Mr Parker, however, concedes that America has gradually repaid our favours.

Repairs to the Old Hall, which sits on land originally owned by the Washingtons, were partly funded by American benefactors in the 1950s.

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Mr Parker said: “We have also borrowed names from them when we built our new town such as Concord, which is in Massachusetts, and then there’s Albany and Columbia.

“You also have the John F Kennedy Primary School and the John F Kennedy housing estate.

“It goes beyond just names though and we have used the links to attract investment from factories such as the Timex watch makers.”

As for the famous Stars and Stripes themselves, Mr Parker said: “The Washington family crest is similar although there is no documentary proof that they have borrowed it from us.”

Such are the links between our Washington and America that President Jimmy Carter even visited the town in 1977.

More than 40 years later, the history society is even called upon during the summer season to speak to bus loads of American tourists at the Old Hall.

Mr Parker jokes: “I always tell them that there are no known links between Washington and their current president.”

Washington History Society meets on the first Monday of each month, except August and January, from 1.30pm in the Mind building, in Grasmere Terrace, in Columbia, no less. New members are welcome and further details are available from Mr Parker on (07736) 010203.